After diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, changes in your lifestyle can help you live well with MS and make it easier to deal with symptoms and relapses.
Everyone needs to look after their general health, both body and mind, but this can be more important when you have been diagnosed with a long-term condition like multiple sclerosis. Living with MS can be the prompt to look at all those aspects of your life, including diet, exercise, stress, smoking and work-life balance.
Any changes don't have to be made instantly and it's best to be realistic about what fits into your lifestyle. Living well with MS still means doing things that you enjoy like having a treat and a good time with family and friends.
Making a start
Learning to live with MS can take a while. However, you might like to begin thinking about your lifestyle.
- Do you smoke?
- How well balanced is your diet?
- Do you drink too much alcohol or take recreational drugs?
- Do you exercise enough or has MS affected what exercise you can do?
- Are any symptoms causing difficulties?
- Are you feeling stressed?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What are the positive things in your life?
- Is your work-life balance where you'd like it to be?
- What are your priorities in life?
If you'd like to explore making changes, you could think:
- What would you like to happen?
- How could this be achieved?
- Where could you most easily make a start?
- Is there something urgent or important that needs doing first?
- Who could support or advise you?
Living with MS day to day
When it comes to lifestyle, the advice for people with MS is the same as for everyone – eat healthily, exercise sensibly, try not to drink too much alcohol and don't smoke. Also, listen to people who know about MS. You may encounter a wide range of opinion but use your judgement and choose wisely. We have research-based information on all kinds of lifestyle issues in this site, including smoking, diet, exercise, stress, mental health, posture and sleep.
Maintaining overall health will also allow you to continue to do the things you enjoy, and the things you need to do, such as work or studying. Going to work has benefits in addition to being paid. Being in education is more than gaining skills and knowledge. You can socialise, meet new people, feel valued and pursue your goals in life. All of these things can be incentives to work or study well after a diagnosis of MS.
Living with MS in the longer term
Do as much as you can, or want to, as this will help you to keep as active and strong as possible. Sometimes making a small change can make a big difference to getting things done. For example, doing more shopping online, sitting down to do the ironing or bulk cooking items on a good day and freezing them.
There may be times when you need some practical support. It's alright to ask for help as it's better to be open about your needs rather than pretending that everything is ok all of the time. Asking for help can be hard at first, especially if you are used to being independent. However, a little help can go a long way particularly if you are having a relapse or a bad patch of symptoms.
Perhaps your family could lend a hand more around the house, you might employ a cleaner or gardener, or get the heavy grocery shopping delivered. Would colleagues at work take on a few things that you now find difficult or let you sit near the window if heat makes your symptoms worse?
It's likely that your friends and family want to assist. They may not be sure what they can do or don't realise the impact of symptoms, especially ones that may be invisible. Consequently, it is worth asking people for help rather than waiting for them to offer. Make your request very specific, clear and reasonable and they are more likely to understand what you need and then say yes. For example, you could say "Are you able to look after the children for three hours on Saturday afternoon?" rather than "Could you look after the children sometimes?"
MS is a very active area of research and treatments for MS are improving all the time. You'll have choices and can take personal responsibility for how you manage your MS such as keeping up physiotherapy exercises or taking medication as prescribed.
Although professional help is important, there's lots that you can do yourself. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can be part of managing your MS well. Also, you can learn from others who are willing to share their experiences and tips for living with MS. Hearing about your experiences may help them too.
Take control. You don't have to be a superhero who deals with everything perfectly or a victim of MS. You're a person who just happens to have MS. Many people with MS say "I have MS but MS doesn't have me". This can be a good mantra to live by.
Maintaining a healthy diet is helpful for everyone. If you have MS, you may find a healthy diet helps with some of your symptoms and can help reduce the impact of MS on your life.
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